The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has introduced a ban on betting sponsorships, although this will not apply to clubs competing in the League of Ireland.
Calls for a severing of ties between betting operators and sports clubs have been mounting in Ireland, with two of the country’s major sporting authorities – the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Gaelic Players Association (GPA) – vocally supporting the suggestion.
Both organisations have argued for the prohibition of gambling advertising during televised broadcasts of sports fixtures, and have been joined by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.
The FAI’s announcement, however, follows two sponsorship agreements signed between Irish professional football clubs. FAI Cup holders Dundalk FC partnered with BetRegal in December 2020, whilst Dublin-based Shamrock Rovers recently struck a deal with online betting and gaming operator 888.
Despite this, a potential partnership between the FAI and Paddy Power was recently shelved. Jonathan Hill, the authority’s Chief Executive, described a deal with a betting firm as ‘not something they wanted to pursue’.
League of Ireland Director, Mark Scanlon, on the other hand, has adopted a laissez-faire approach to gambling sponsorship, stating: “We are quite happy with our own stance but club matters are internal.”
“As long as they fit within Uefa regulation and FAI regulations, we’re happy with that. These things have continued to evolve over the last number of years; we have seen regulations come into place for areas like alcohol sponsorship and so on.”
When asked whether the arrangements between betting operators and the two prominent football clubs was sending out a negative message to the Irish public, Scanlon remained committed to the League’s hands-off approach, replying: “We made our decisions internally within the FAI and the board of the FAI, who considered all situations when deciding sponsors.”
In addition to the governing bodies, the debate on Irish sports’ relationship with the gambling industry has entered the realm of politics. The Irish Labour Party launched a bill last month – Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 – which if passed will implement a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on gambling advertising during televised broadcasts.
This followed the passage of the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’ by the Dáil in December 2020, establishing the foundations for a sweeping reform of Ireland’s gambling legislation in 2021.